Readers Digest
Magazine subscription Podcast
HomeCultureFilm & TV

Film review: Paterson – a quiet masterpiece about a harmonious marriage

BY Farhana Gani

1st Jan 2015 Film & TV

Film review: Paterson – a quiet masterpiece about a harmonious marriage

Jim Jarmusch’s latest film introduces us to a man named Paterson, from Paterson, New Jersey—a driver played by Adam Driver (in his most nuanced performance yet). Despite many such coincidences that in another’s hands could be laboured, it’s poetry in motion.

Nothing much happens in the seven days that unfold over the course of this beautiful ode to the simple life. But the small occurrences that make each day suitably different remind us about the joy of being alive, and that beauty is all around us if we bother to look. And this film makes you look.

Every day, Paterson follows a simple routine. He wakes up at the same time, puts on his bus driver’s uniform, kisses his waking wife goodbye, walks to the depot and greets the same colleagues. He drives his regular route, connecting with the same city streets, and catches fragments of passenger conversations as he steers the wheel.

During breaks he methodically writes poetry into a notebook, a "secret notebook" his wife Laura calls it. The poems are recited in Driver’s voice as Paterson scribbles away and we see the words appear onscreen. We learn that Paterson’s favourite poet is William Carlos Williams, an American poet known for his epic poem Paterson, about this very town.

Paterson’s poems are rather good (penned by Jarmusch’s favourite poet Ron Padgett). They start benignly and evolve into thoughtful, philosophical and personal musings on existence. A reflection on a preferred brand of matches, for example, expands into a love poem that lingers in the mind long after the film ends.

After work the pattern continues. Paterson heads home in the evening, straightens the tilting mailbox and takes Marvin the bulldog for a walk during which he stops at his local bar and drinks one beer before returning home for supper.

Adam Driver and Golshifteh Farahani in Jim Jarmusch's film, Paterson

Laura, by contrast (played with passion and whimsy by the striking Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani), isn’t one for routine. Her unstructured days are filled with new ideas for making things from cupcakes to curtains, painting door frames or cutting a dress into shape. But patterns dominate her life too, especially black-and-white circles and polka dots she likes to surround herself with.

Where Paterson is reticently content, Laura is exuberant and unhesitant about throwing herself into each new project that takes her fancy. Paterson wholeheartedly supports her in his quietly understated way, even if it means forking out several hundred dollars from their limited savings to buy a (black-and-white) guitar for Laura to realise her impulsive ambition to become a country singer.

Adam Driver and Golshifteh Farahani in Jim Jarmusch's film, Paterson
Occasionally the most unassuming lives deliver the most powerful stories

Theirs is a happy marriage. Paterson cherishes Laura and she cherishes him. She talks, he listens. They are kind, affectionate and supportive; patient, encouraging and in tune; yin and yang in perfect balance. Their lives might be unremarkable and repetitive but their existence is charming as they refuse to dwell on mishaps but embrace what life throws at them as they embrace each other.

Most mornings as she emerges from sleep she tells him about a dream she’s had. These dreams infiltrate his thoughts throughout the day, suggesting a delightful and mysterious cosmic connection.

Jim Jarmusch has delivered an immaculately polished film. The finely tuned script—no wasted words anywhere—and the outstandingly restrained performances, including Nellie who played Marvin to perfection, makes for a deeply enjoyable cinema experience.

Nellie stars as Marvin in Paterson, directed by Jim Jarmusch
Nellie stars as Marvin, the scheming English bulldog

Paterson is an astonishingly penetrating film that quietly observes everyday highs and lows and delivers a kind and intelligent tribute to the beauty of ordinary lives.


Paterson opens in cinemas across the UK from Friday 25 November

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more film updates

Enjoyed this story? Share it

This post contains affiliate links, so we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through links on our site at no additional cost to you. Read our disclaimer

Loading up next...
Stories by email|Subscription
Readers Digest

Launched in 1922, Reader's Digest has built 100 years of trust with a loyal audience and has become the largest circulating magazine in the world

Readers Digest
Reader’s Digest is a member of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (which regulates the UK’s magazine and newspaper industry). We abide by the Editors’ Code of Practice and are committed to upholding the highest standards of journalism. If you think that we have not met those standards, please contact 0203 289 0940. If we are unable to resolve your complaint, or if you would like more information about IPSO or the Editors’ Code, contact IPSO on 0300 123 2220 or visit